Saturday, April 13, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Celtics 120, Magic 88
By Greg Payne
Rapid reaction following the Boston Celtics' 120-88 victory over the Orlando Magic Saturday night at Amway Center.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Courtney Lee led a very balanced Boston attack with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench. Lee was joined in double figures by six other Boston players, including Kevin Garnett (14 points), Brandon Bass (14 points), Jordan Crawford (16 points) and Paul Pierce (12 points), who also added six rebounds and a team-high eight assists. Orlando was paced by Tobias Harris (22 points) and Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 12 rebounds).
TURNING POINT: After leading 23-17 at the end of the first quarter, the Celtics seized control of this one in the second frame, outscoring the Magic 34-20 on the strength of a 15-0 run early in the period. From the 11:07 to the 6:24 mark of the frame, Boston held Orlando to 0-of-8 shooting, while Garnett and Pierce chipped in nine of the Celtics' 15 points, converting on four of the five shots they combined to take. Boston entered halftime with a 20-point lead (57-37) and never looked back.
C'S LOCK UP SEVENTH SEED: With the win Saturday, the Celtics locked up the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings, officially outlasting a late-season push from eighth-seeded Milwaukee. The New York Knicks currently hold the second spot in the East, and though it's still mathematically possible for the Indiana Pacers to vault past New York into the second slot, the Celtics will most likely be matching up with the Knicks when the playoffs get underway next week. With two games remaining on the schedule and their playoff seed set in stone, the Celtics now have a bit of leeway to rest some of their veterans for another game or two if they feel they need to.
PIERCE, GARNETT RETURN: Pierce and Garnett, who sat out Friday's loss to the Heat for some strategic rest and to nurse sore ankles (right ankle for Pierce; left for Garnett), returned Saturday and helped pace Boston's offensive attack. Garnett needed to play just 18:36, but over that time he scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, adding a team-high nine rebounds and three assists. He finished plus-27 in plus/minus. Pierce put his stamp on a number of statistical categories, and early in the first quarter he reached the 24,000 career points milestone, becoming just the 20th player in NBA history to do so.
GREEN BANGED UP AGAIN: A night after leaving the Celtics' loss to the Heat early with a bruised left elbow, Jeff Green suffered another minor injury scare when he was hip-checked by Orlando guard Doron Lamb in the third quarter while trying to move around a screen. Green remained on the floor, wincing in pain, for some time, but eventually got up and was able to remain in the game. He finished Saturday's win with 17 points, six rebounds and three assists. Count Green among those looking forward to Boston's day off on Sunday.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Celtics can take a host of positives away from their clobbering of the Magic on Saturday. In addition to locking up their playoff seed, they saw productive returns for Garnett and Pierce, and were able to get some key bench players (Lee and Crawford in particular) some needed floor time. With their short-term future a bit clearer now, the Celtics can enjoy Sunday's off day (count on head coach Doc Rivers to take in the final round of the Masters from the couch of his Orlando home), get a few players some extra rest (looking at you, Jeff Green), and gear up for the final two games of the regular season next week.